David Villa entertained NYCFC fans for four seasons. (Photo courtesy of NYCFC)
By Michael Lewis
By the time you read this story, you undoubtedly have read at least one if not more stories about David Villa in the wake of Wednesday’s news.
Don’t know how many more adjectives I can add about this great and entertaining player, but I will give you some parting thoughts.
For someone who had won the World Cup (2010) and the European Championship (2008), he was hardly a prima donna. It was never about him, only about the team.
While he labored in a lower league than La Liga, what I loved about Villa was that he battled for the ball on the field and never stopped running at full tilt, until an injury slowed him down or knocked him out of the lineup.
No doubt he entertained the fans in Yankee Stadium, a baseball stadium, and not a soccer venue fit for his feats.
He will be remembered for many goals.
Four stand out to me.
There was that incredible chip shot that confounded the Philadelphia Union’s Jamaican international goalkeeper Andre Blake in the dying seconds of a road victory April 14, 2017.
Then there was that fabulous duel with the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips in a rare New York City FC win in the Hudson River Derby Aug. 6, 2017. The final score could have read Villa 3, BWP 2.
I also give him a lot of credit, learning English so he could speak to the media one-on-one after games and at training, instead of going through an interpreter. That was no mean feat, considering how little he knew when he joined the club. Many players, especially ones that rides in such a high orbit as Villa would be fearful of embarrassing themselves.
While it was a slow start, Villa mastered enough of the English language to give coherent answers.
Of course, things weren’t always peaches and cream. He didn’t always want to talk to the media, for whatever reason. I remember one member of the team’s communications department tried to convince him to talk after a loss in the Yankee Stadium locker room after a loss a couple of years ago, telling him he had to talk to the media because he was the team captain. I could tell from the body language he just didn’t want to that day.
As it turns out, I will leave you with something that I was inspired to write about Villa, the lede to my Newsday story of New York City FC’s 2-0 home opening win over the New England Revolution March 15. It was one of my favorite all-time ledes:
The last time a home-team player wearing No. 7 got the Yankee Stadium crowd this energized was back in the days of The Mick.
David Villa has a very long way to go to duplicate the astounding feats of the late, great Mickey Mantle, but the New York City FC star certainly got his career at the Stadium off on the right foot Sunday.
The Spanish striker put on a virtuoso performance, connecting for a brilliant goal and setting up an insurance tally to lead the expansion team to its first win, a 2-0 victory over the 2014 MLS Cup finalist New England Revolution in its home opener.
Thanks for the memories, David.